The Holy Spirit is described as tongues of fire. Fire gives us warmth and light, and fire also destroys.
First Fire gives warmth. One of the titles of the Holy Spirit is the comforter. The Holy Spirit is God himself, the third person of the Trinity. Jesus sends him to dwell among us, to live in his Church. We received the spirit at our baptism and so are able to be called truly temples of God. Little Children are afraid when far from their parents, when they have nightmares, they run to be close to them. We need not be afraid for God is always close to us. We are never alone.
Fire gives light. Our Gospel reminds us that the Holy Spirit will be sent to “teach you everything and remind you of all I have taught you.” The Holy Spirit helps us to understand the teaching of Jesus Christ and to apply it to our circumstances today. Of course there are many who claim to be inspired by the Holy Spirit – and sometimes they contradict one another – how do we know we have the Spirit? Another image of the Holy Spirit is that of breath – the Spirit is the breath of Jesus – Jesus breathed his Spirit upon the disciples after his Resurrection. In order to feel someone’s breath, we need to be very close to them, indeed too close for comfort. The Church is the body of Christ. To feel the breath of Christ we must be extremely close to the body of Christ. To receive the Spirit, we must be close to the Church.
Finally Fire destroys things. Fire is not always a good thing, often it is a scary thing. There are many by-laws regarding candles and flames – I am told when I celebrate Mass in a nursing home or school that I am not permitted to use candles. The Holy Spirit can be scary too because the Holy Spirit wishes to purify us, wishes to destroy our sinfulness. So often we hear the mantra “The Church needs to change….” It is true, but not in the sense that they think – the Church needs to change – you and I are the Church. We are the ones who need to change – to be more humble and less proud, to have a more supernatural vision and less wordly values, to care for others more and worry less about ourselves, to be more generous and less stingy, to have more courage, more faith, greater optimism. It is the Holy Spirit who can carry out this change – but it will not be painless.
Come Holy Spirit! Comfort your faithful. Enlighten us. Transform us. Renew your Church. Renew the world!